EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the second in a series looking at local judge candidates.
Circuit Court Judge David Bragg and Assistant District Attorney Nathan Nichols are squared off in the race for Circuit Court Judge, Part II, in the Aug. 7 election.
Both of the candidates answered these questions from The Post.
Judge David Bragg
Personal: Wife, Nancy, 39 years. Two sons, Jason of Chicago, and Kevin, a Murfreesboro attorney. Parents were the late state Rep. John and Annie Bragg. Brother, Tommy Bragg served as mayor of Murfreesboro for three terms.
Member of First Baptist Church more than 50 years, deacon, Sunday school teacher and church moderator.
Served on the board of directors of Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, the Guidance Center, the Volunteer Behavioral Health Corporation, the Murfreesboro T-Ball and Coach Pitch Association, the Murfreesboro Baseball Association, the Cannon County Industrial Board, the Cannon County Arts and Crafts Association and the local Christian Legal Aid Society. Member of the Rutherford Cannon County Bar Association, the American Bar Association and president of the Andrew Jackson Inns of Court.
Background: Born in Murfreesboro, attended Hobgood Elementary and Central High School. Graduated from University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a degree in Education. Taught history and civics at Oakland High School. Graduate school at MTSU, worked as a graduate assistant while earning a master’s degree in Psychology. Worked in the Dean of Students office in programming and student discipline and as assistant dean of students. Worked at Courier Printing, a business founded by my grandfather, as a sales representative. Returned to MTSU as director of Housing for three years.
Purchased Cannon Courier in Woodbury in 1981 with brother. Worked full time as writer, photographer, ad salesman and floor sweeper. Enrolled in 1990 in Nashville School of Law, graduated in the top 10 percent of class in 1994 and passed the bar. Opened law firm with Rick Mansfield and Whitney Stegall that year in Murfreesboro. Had a general practice of law until elected Circuit Court judge in 2008. Attended classes at the National Judicial College, Northwestern University, the National Center for Justice and the Rule of Law, the Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills in addition to annual judicial conferences.
Why are you running for election?: So many men and women who have given unselfishly to the people of Rutherford and Cannon Counties have blessed me. I am a product of their work and this position gives me an opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to my family and me. I have been honored to serve as a judge for the past six years. I have presided over more than 7,500 cases in the areas of criminal, domestic and civil law. Serving as the presiding judge over the Recovery Courts, I have seen people’s lives changed by a program that works at a fraction of the cost of keeping someone in jail. Successful participants become hard-working taxpaying members of our community representing not just a saved life but also often a saved family. I have completed hundreds of hours of training at the National Judicial College, the Center for Fourth Amendment Studies and the other programs to improve my judicial skills. I have worked hard to be a good judge and I believe my experience makes me the most qualified candidate. I want to continue to serve my community in this position.
What is the most important characteristic a judge should have?: A judge needs a broad base of experience. Experience in life to be able to make decisions reflecting the values held in the community. Experience in the law to be able interpret and apply the law to the facts of a situation and be able to communicate the decision clearly and effectively to those affected. A person just two or three years out of law school doesn’t have that base of experience either in life or in practicing law.
It is also important for a judge to be patient and approach every case with an open mind. A judge must be firm but humble and able to maintain a calm climate in the courtroom, treating all those who appear in court with respect. I believe this set of skills is earned with experience and maturity gained by trial practice and by working with clients as an attorney and adviser.
What will be the foundation of your decision-making process on the bench?: Every judge takes an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of Tennessee. Judges make decisions on the law and the facts. These foundations are supported by the statutory laws passed by our legislature and the case law set out in decisions of our appellate courts. I listen to the evidence presented in the courtroom, the arguments of the attorneys presenting the case, determine which laws are relevant to the case and apply those laws to the facts to reach a decision. Where it is necessary I use my common sense to determine what seems right and fair. My life experience growing up and raising a family in this community gives me a good perspective of what the people living here would expect. The legal system should provide the community with some degree of predictability and stability. It should provide security so law-abiding citizens can be safe and punishment for those who create a danger to our community.
Why are you running as an independent?: U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts said the following, “President Ronald Reagan used to speak of the Soviet constitution, and he noted that it purported to grant wonderful rights of all sorts to people. But those rights were empty promises, because that system did not have an independent judiciary to uphold the rule of law and enforce those rights.” I agree with the chief justice and President Reagan. This belief has been strengthened during my term of service as Circuit Court judge. I, like many Americans, am troubled by bickering in Washington from both Democrats and Republicans. I think the voters in Rutherford County need to ask if they want partisan politics to infest the court system. I do not and simply would not allow it if I am re-elected. That is the reason I am running as an independent.
Personal: I reside in the Blackman Community and am a member of the Church of Christ.
Background: I have been prosecuting criminal cases with the Rutherford County District Attorney’s Office for over five years. I began prosecuting cases using my limited law license and was later appointed a fulltime assistant district attorney general. Currently, I prosecute cases ranging in severity from major felonies to misdemeanors in Rutherford County Circuit Court.
Prior to becoming a prosecutor, I spent more than 10 years as a deputy circuit court clerk and law clerk. I also previously served as an elected member the Cannon County Commission. I graduated from the Nashville School of Law and MTSU.
Why are you running for election?: I am running because I feel I have a lot to offer the people of the 16th Judicial District. Almost 80 percent of Division II’s case load over the last six years has consisted of criminal cases. Additionally, about two years ago, Division II began exclusively hearing criminal cases. While some small number of civil cases may still make their way into Division II, it, effectively, functions as a criminal court. I am the only candidate who has handled thousands of criminal cases as an assistant district attorney, advocated for countless crime victims and their families, and devoted his entire professional life to serving and protecting the citizens of Rutherford and Cannon Counties.
What is the most important characteristic a judge should have?: A judge should possess three important characteristics. First, of course, they should have experience in the area of law over which they will be presiding. Second, a judge should be a good listener and carefully consider the arguments of both sides. Finally, a judge should have a genuine desire to treat every individual who appears before them fairly, respectfully and with dignity regardless of their status as a lawyer or litigant. I believe I possess all of these characteristics.
What will be the foundation of your decision making?: Just as it should be for all judges, the foundation of my decision making will be the Constitution, the statutes as passed by our Legislature, and case law.
Why are you running as a Republican?: I am a proud conservative Republican. The party best represents my beliefs in many areas, but especially my beliefs about the judiciary. Judges should never legislate from the bench and should leave law making to the people’s elected representatives. To call myself anything but a Republican would be a lie.
Some other judicial candidates and their supporters have attacked the Republican Party for nominating judicial candidates. They argue judges must run as independents and that to do otherwise is inappropriate. I find it curious that those same candidates had no qualms about seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for judicial office in 2006 and, in the case of my opponent, as recently as 2008. In light of that fact, I find it a bit disingenuous to attack your opponent for running as something other than an Independent while, at the very same time, you sit on the bench as an elected Democrat. I want the voters to know who I am and what I believe. It is wrong to hide that information from them and that’s why I am running as a Republican.